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Citizen Cope

Citizen Cope will be at the Uptown Theatre Napa on Saturday, Dec. 17. 

Clarence Greenwood, whose professional name is Citizen Cope, is a Memphis, Tennessee-born singer/songwriter and record producer with a multi-genre palette and a strong indie identity. He performs this Saturday night at the Uptown Theatre in Napa.

With a quarter of a century of touring and five albums released since 2002, Cope’s repertoire is a mix of soul, blues, folk, rock and hip-hop. His influences account for his eclectic choices.

On the phone from his home in Los Angeles this month, Cope talked about the music he was attached to as a teenager. “In those years it was Neil Young, The Beatles, John Lennon, Bob Marley,” Cope said. “I guess when I got into my 20s, hip-hop kind of came along, and I started listening to that. I was into like A Tribe Called Quest and Boogie Down Productions.

“As a producer, when I wanted to make records, Stevie Wonder’s records really, really affected me. And there’s something called Go-Go music in Washington, D.C., an artist named Chuck Brown, Al Green, the production of Willie Mitchell.”

After being under contract to a handful of major labels, Cope went fully independent in 2010, founding Rainwater Recordings and releasing his two most recent albums, “The Rainwater LP (2010)” and “One Lovely Day (2012).” An avid convert, he said earlier this year that he’d always been self-made and doing things on his own, that going independent made sense to him.

“I was really into making records that had a social meaning, plus a payoff emotionally,” he said. “I don’t think major labels understand emotional music … they’re more geared toward throwaway pop music.”

Cope’s recordings have been particularly attractive to filmmakers, both in theatrical releases and for television. His song, “Bullet and a Target,” from “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (2004),” for example, has been on the soundtrack of 18 different productions. “Let the Drummer Kick,” from “Citizen Cope (2006)” has been featured on 10 different soundtracks.

Cope is uncertain about why his songs have so frequently been chosen for film or television. “I think they just put it in there,” he said, “and it’ll work in a scene. It’s just been a situation where I’ve been fortunate enough to have filmmakers, or whoever was syncing up the songs, like it and it worked. I think it has something to do with the tempo of the stuff, just kind of the songs lending themselves to visuals.”

For the immediate future, Cope is working on two studio albums — one acoustic, one with a full band. “With both of them, I should be finished by January,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to stagger them, but I know one of them’s coming out this summer, and then I’ll figure out when the next one’s coming out.”

Cope’s live shows have recently tilted away from full accompaniment. “I have played acoustic a little bit more this year,” he said, “but over the years I’ve always done both. They’re just both kinds of different expressions.” At the Uptown, Cope’s performance will be solo and unplugged.

Saturday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m. $46. Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St., Napa. 707-259-0123.

Heads Up

Brian Culbertson to headline New Year’s weekend at Blue Note Napa

Smooth jazz all-star and Napa Valley favorite Brian Culbertson will play in the New Year at Blue Note, two shows a night, Friday, Dec. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 31. Special prix fixe menus and VIP packages are available for the New Year’s Eve performances. For details, call 707-880-2300 or visit

David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at